All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Cultivate Joy

Homily, July 3, 2016, Proper 9
Andy Guffey

Isaiah 66:10-14 Psalm 66:1-8 Galatians 6:7-16 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

As I was reading the texts for this week, what stuck out to me was joy. Isaiah says, "Rejoice with Jerusalem." The Psalm says to shout with joy. Which is sort of appropriate for the Fourth of July weekend. Happy Independence Day weekend, by the way! I don't know about for you, but for me, the Fourth of July weekend was always a fun weekend. When I was a kid, I celebrated the independence of this nation by stuffing my face with hotdogs and cake, and by feeding my inner pyromaniac—lots of little things that go boom! Wheee! The only memorial of those celebrations were sugar crashes, sun burns, and scorched earth. You know, fun. The idea, of course is that we were celebrating our country and its freedoms.

One might get the impression that the reading from Isaiah is also about patriotism: "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her—that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast, that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom." I won't even go into the Freudian turns and twists of this passage. But certainly, the patriotic language is not foreign to our ears. It doesn't sound so different from "God Bless America!" "My Country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing!" But that's not what the author of Isaiah 66 was doing. Maybe you noticed that I left a little line out: "Rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her." By the time our author is writing these lines, Jerusalem is in ruins, crushed by the Babylonians. In the midst of mourning, the author of these lines does not give in to despair, but rather cultivates joy. In response to utter tragedy, the author of this passage says to rejoice.

In Jewish tradition, it is expected that one cultivates joy on the Sabbath and on certain other festivals. As one author puts it: "The Sabbath is no time for personal anxiety or care, for any activity that might dampen the spirit of joy. ...[T]he Sabbath was given to us by God for joy, for delight, for rest, and should not be marred by worry or grief" (A. J. Heschel, Sabbath, 30).

The Desert Fathers of Christian tradition—those austere, holy persons of the early years of Christianity, some of whom only ate raw vegetables or prescribed for themselves other harsh ascetic practices—no hotdogs and DEFINITELY no cake for them—the Desert Fathers also recognized the importance of cultivating joy. There is a story about a certain Father Apollo, who lived in the Egyptian desert. His disciples apparently only ate one meal a day, after Eucharist. I would think they'd be pretty miserable! If it were me, I think I'd be hangry most of the time. But, the story goes right on to say, "Nevertheless, one could see them in the desert filled with a joy and a bodily contentment such as one cannot see anywhere else. For nobody was gloomy or downcast." And if anyone did seem a bit glum, Father Apollo would counsel them, until the root of the joylessness was discovered.

Both in Jewish tradition and in our Christian tradition, cultivating joy has been part of who we are and what we do. Because fundamentally, cultivating joy is about desiring God, trusting in God, hoping in God. Enjoying God. That's why today's Psalm says: "Be joyful in God all you lands!"

But, as another Psalm says, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" Right now—and very often—there does not seem to be much to rejoice in—there's Orlando, of course, but also now the murder of hostages in Bangladesh, a bombing in Istanbul, a perplexing Brexit, and that's not even to mention the dubious fate of Chicago Public Schools, nor to mention the daily rise of gun violence in this city. Sometimes it seems we don't have time for joy; there's work to do. Or even worse, it just doesn't seem appropriate to find cause for joy. We feel that we are not free to rejoice. But that is precisely why we need to cultivate joy, to seek it out, to find the freedom to be joyful.

As most of you probably know, Elie Wiesel died yesterday. Most of you are probably familiar with Wiesel's work. A survivor of the Shoah, the Holocaust, author of several books, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You probably are familiar with his autobiographical story of the Holocaust, Night. Wiesel was determined for the rest of his life that he would never allow the world to forget. As he constantly said, he lived to bear witness. "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." Wiesel was not a perfect spokesman for these words, but he knew the horrors of the world, and our responsibility to confront them.

One might easily get the impression that Wiesel was a man with little time for joy. He was a serious man, to be sure. But he also was devoted to the Hasidic way of Judaism. And one of the hallmarks of Hasidic Judaism is joy. I was listening to one of his lectures yesterday, and he told a story, as he is wont to do. It goes like this: A Hasid came to a rabbi, and he said, "Rabbi, I feel crushed, so terrible is my anguish. I have so many obligations, so many mouths to feed, so many deaths to mourn. I cannot bear it any more. The old Rabbi took his hand and asked, "Do you want me to weep for you? To mix my tears with yours? Is that what you want?" "Yes," whispered Hasid. "At least, it will make me feel better. I will know that you at least understand me, that you share in my suffering. Weep for me, then. Weep with me, and I will thank you. I will thank you with all my heart. But the Rabbi looked at him for a long moment, and shook his head, No. That's not what we must do. Weeping is no solution. Instead, I shall sing. And you shall sing with me. I know it's not easy, and why should it be? But we shall sing nevertheless. As Wiesel says, there was no good reason in the world for them to feel better, but they did.

Cultivating joy is contagious, and it doesn't just happen when we feel like it. We need each other. To remind each other of the source of our joy—which is not the same as mere happiness. Sometimes, our yearning for God, for justice, for peace, flows from the crucifixion, from pain and oppression, and we cry out, "How long, O Lord?!" But cultivating joy reminds us of the joy and hope of resurrection. God is making all things new, if we will only let ourselves see it. If we will only sing together. The crucifixion and the resurrection go hand-in-hand. No resurrection without the indelible memory of catastrophe; no crucifixion without the hope and joy of new life, without the recognition of beauty in the world and all around us.

In the wake of Orlando, a number of folks posted pictures of people coming together. Of Orthodox Jews visiting a gay night club in a show of solidarity and compassion, of Muslims holding vigil at Pulse. Communities coming together to grieve together at the Stonewall, and in Boystown. One of my Canterbury Northwestern students was in NYC, and he went to the Stonewall, where he took a picture of the crowd that had gathered, embracing each other and showing each other grace. The caption on the picture said, "Love wins. Love will always win." Cultivating joy.

Whenever we perceive, if only out of the corner of our eye, the beauty of the world, in our children's voices, in sunlight-bathed flowers, in an absolutely gorgeous Fourth of July weekend, and whatever it is that gives us delight—we cultivate joy. And we should be witnesses of that joy, giving thanks for it as often as we can. As Wiesel once said, "If the only prayer you say throughout your life is 'Thank you,' that will be enough." Because in those simple words, the free love of God who is absolutely free of anger toward all creation, wells up, surprising us with the freedom to find our joy, too.


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Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    


How much longer will the killing continue? 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
    All my best,


    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    Memorial Service for John Vanzo

    AUGUST 13 2013 11The memorial service for our friend and neighbor John Vanzo will be held at All Saints' this Saturday the 17th, at 11:00 am. There will be a visitation in the sanctuary prior to the service, beginning at 10:30am. All are welcome. 

    On Friday evening, the 16th, we will host a time of conversation and story telling for John's friends and family. All are invited from 7 to 9pm to share a drink, and hear and tell a favorite story of the very many sides of John.

    May John's soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    Bags for RCS

    Bags for RCS

    We're running low on paper and reusable bags for our Tuesday night pantry. Please bring us your extras! 
    We will be taking donations on Tuesday evenings, M-F 9am-4pm, and on Sundays during church services. Look for the bins by the doors. Thanks for your help!

    Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

    Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

    Tuesdays 6:15-8:00pm 

    RCS is looking for help serving and cleaning up after dinner on Tuesdays from 6:15-8:00pm.

    If you're able to volunteer, contact Emily or Operations Manager Parker Callahan, or call 773-769-0282.

    Donate to The 1883 Project

    Donate to The 1883 Project

    Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

    1883 Construction web 

    Fixing This Old Church

    Fixing This Old Church

    Here is a collection of photos of the progress of our 1883 Project. Here is a collection of bell tower photos. Check back often for updates.

    Sunday Service Times

    8:00 am Inclusive Language Eucharist
    9:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir
    10:00 am Children's Church School
    10:00 am Coffee Hour
    11:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir


    Contact Us

    4550 N. Hermitage in Chicago, IL 60640 (Directions)

    Phone (773) 561-0111


    Information about pastoral care.



    Bonnie on Huffington Post

    Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

    Pain. Change. Hope.

    November 15, 2015

    What Does St. Francis of Assisi Have to Say to Us Today?

    October 4, 2015

    Wake Up Calls

    September 6, 2015

    Christmas Reminds Us That We, Like God, Are Human, Too

    December 24, 2014

    The Deep Sleep of Racial Oblivion: One Pastor's Sin of Omission

    November 30, 2014

    Pulpit Swap

    The Pulpit Swap between St Thomas and All Saints is part of our ongoing effort to bring our parishes closer together as we engage in a conversation about systemic racism and how we can work together to forge new possibilities and outcomes.

    Going Home—Changed

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Bonnie Perry of All Saints Episcopal Church on October 16, 2016.  

    When Prayers Go Unanswered

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Dr Fulton L Porter celebrating at All Saints Episcopal Church on Oct16 2016.